Excellent Masterson rehab sends notice to Red Sox


Don’t get too giddy, Red Sox fans as it was Triple-A.

A beautiful day for noon baseball at McCoy field in Pawtucket with warm and sunny weather. For Justin Masterson it was also a beautiful day with a six inning rehab performance in which Masterson allowed one run on two hits. A statement by the disappointing Masterson that he may actually be a factor this season for the Red Sox. Time will tell.

Masterson had his fastball, sinker, slider working reasonably well and did touch over the 90 mark on the fastball and, better yet, all pitches were delivered with relative control. Masterson fanned six and walked one, who was old friend George Kottaras, scoring the lone run for the Charlotte Knights on a double by Tyler Colvin. Masterson had nine ground ball outs and an economical 75 pitches. A very impressive performance.

For those enraptured by the scoring aspect of the contest, Masterson had a no decision as the game was 1-1 when Masterson left to call Ben Cherington to say: “I’m back!” The Pawsox did manage a 2-1 walk-off win thanks to a Garin Cecchini double.

For those of us who have traveled I-95 it is about as far as one can get from being a long and lonesome highway. However, for Justin Masterson it is. Masterson is getting in his travel miles while he participates in rehab starts while recovering from an injury that has the proverbial wink, wink and nod, nod factor.

Masterson went DL with a stat line of 2-1, with a 6.37 ERA in his 35.1 innings of service in seven starts. Far from what was expected when 9.5M is doled out to be a serviceable member of the rotation.

As reported by The Herald’s Scott Lauber, Masterson has said all the “right things” regarding his current status and that reflects positive on the now 30-year-old right-hander. However, the wrong thing has been on display in his first two rehab starts. The first, at Pawtucket, was a 1.2 inning appearance limited by a 50 pitch limit. Masterson allowed two runs, but yielded three walks and a pair of wild pitches.

"“To go and hopefully repeat what I did those last three innings, it would be good for everyone,” Masterson said. “For myself to say, ‘OK, we did it again,’ and the front office to go, ‘Yeah, he’s in a good spot where we feel comfortable that he’s going to come back and be himself’ rather than saying, ‘We think he will, but we’re not totally sure.’ ”"

Further north on I-95 is Portland, Maine and that is the home of the Double-A Portland Seadogs. Masterson’s second start had slightly better results with three scoreless innings as part of a 4.2 inning rehab that also had Masterson yielding three hits.

The Red Sox have another logjam and it is in the rotation. The battle for fifth starter – to me, they are all fifth starters – between Joe Kelly and Steven Wright has been settled with Wright’s transfer to the bullpen – at least on a temporary basis.

The sudden surge of Eduardo Rodriguez certainly added to the pleasant dilemma of too many starters who happen to have suddenly found their way after being lost in the land of high ERA’s and pitch counts. So how does Masterson fit in?

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The cost factor is ever-present as Masterson is being paid a considerable amount of baseball money that has so far yielded minimal returns. Masterson has worked out of the bullpen in the past and that option certainly exists as does another rehab start or two. Masterson has minimal trade value so any return would be a body to solidify Portland or Pawtucket and, of course, the player to be named later is a possibility.

What is being very clear is this signing is not yielding the results expected. If Masterson has another decent rehab start then comes decision time. Does Masterson return to a rotation where others have shown to be more reliable? Do the Red Sox hope a buyer is in the house? An expensive bullpen trinket? So, Masterson performs well then a pleasant dilemma surfaces of too much pitching – like having too much money.

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